It is not the job of a farm news broadcaster or agricultural journalist to be an “advocate.” A news reporter – ag or otherwise – who advocates for anything isn’t a very good news reporter.
In recent weeks, the topic of journalistic integrity has come up in many conversations among my peers. The reason? There have been an outspoken few who have listened, read and/or viewed the work of an ag journalist, deemed it unfavorable to agriculture, and thrown some mud at the reporter’s name.
There’s a big difference between what I’m doing now – giving you my opinion – and what a good ag journalist does when reporting news. In a news program, you should expect fair and balanced reporting on any subject, which means you are probably going to hear at least one or maybe two more sides to any issue – in addition to the side you are on.
The outspoken few who have condemned the ag news reporter for balanced reporting are the same ones who condemn reporters on the national news networks for unbalanced reporting. Professional conduct by a news reporter should include pursuit of the truth as well as presenting the news accurately, impartially, in context and as completely as possible.
The Code of Ethics for the Radio and Television News Director Association (RTNDA) states that a journalist should:
Gather and report news without fear or favor, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, powerful individuals and special interest groups. . .resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty.
A true journalist is accountable for his or her actions to the public, the profession and themselves.
The definition of “advocate” is to plead in favor of. Synonyms include support, back, champion, and endorse. If any of the reporters who work for me at Brownfield Network choose to champion, back, endorse or advocate instead of report agricultural news, they know they will soon be looking for a job elsewhere.
A former executive director for a state livestock association once told me I that I was doing the industry a disservice by allowing my reporters to interview representatives from Humane Society of the United States (HSUS.) It is my opinion that people in the agriculture industry in this country are much more intelligent than this former exec believed. Knowledge is power. If you don’t know where those who stand against you stand, how can you prepare to deal with the consequences?
Covering your ears or turning your head doesn’t silence the voice of your detractors.